© Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian
Chris Nettleton has been busking daily at the corner of University Avenue and Kent Street in Charlottetown all winter. This past Sunday he claims two drunk men smashed his guitar, kicked him in the face, took his money and left. It is yet another setback in a troubled life for Nettleton.
The corner of University Avenue and Kent Street in Charlottetown is uncharacteristically quiet now after yet more troubles fell upon the bent frame of busker Chris Nettleton.
He plays his guitar there nearly every day, all hours, through the wind and weather but not since this past weekend.
He is still at his spot on the sidewalk, but it now features a display of a smashed guitar and a sign that says: "Was kicked in the head - Guitar was smashed - Money was taken - Now I have nothing. Storm Coming. Please Help Me ??"
He told The Guardian that this past Sunday, about 5 p.m., two men came up to his spot as he played outside on the sidewalk. He could tell they were drunk.
They said they were from Moncton and they wanted to play Nettleton's guitar.
"When they started getting aggressive I started to put my guitar in my case and they kicked me in the side of the head and stomped on the guitar and took what money I had and took off," said Nettleton. "I wasn’t really in a position to go after them."
He said he didn’t call for assistance and didn’t seek medical attention. His eye didn’t start to swell shut until the next day.
Nettleton brought two guitar cases to his sidewalk station Tuesday. He says they are on loan but he doesn’t know for how long.
"My face hurts too much to play today," he said.
It is a far cry from an interview he did with a news organization in Peterborough, Ont. in 2006. At that time he told a reporter that his music had taken him to opening acts for the likes of David User, the band 54-40 and for Brian Byrne of I Mother Earth.
That biographical news story outlines his claims of battles with addiction, being removed from his drug-addicted mother, a drifters existence, trouble with the law and youth recovery programs.
"A powerful vocalist and songwriter, (Nettleton) shares his tumultuous life experiences with vocally charged and emotional performances," says Nettleton’s page on CBC Music"s database of Canadian artists.
He has since made his way from Ontario to Halifax to Charlottetown where he has been busking since last October, he said.
He was suffering from a severe bladder infection all winter and with the invasive treatment that came with it, he could not work, Nettleton told The Guardian.
"Unfortunately I have been out here all winter, in every kind of weather imaginable," he said. "I"m just trying to make it by.
"I came here to start over because my life wasn’t going in a very good direction," he said. "I was just broken down and I needed a fresh start.
"All I have been wanting to do is just get my feet underneath me and get some stability but it seems (I have) roadblocks everywhere I go."
He was denied social assistance because he didn’t come to the Island with a reasonable financial plan, Nettleton was told. He appealed that ruling and lost, he said.
He has exceeded his allotment of reasonable time at Bedford MacDonald House, he said, and has been "renting a couch here and there."
"I"m tired and I"m frustrated and I"m worn out," he said, as a van pulls to the side of the Kent Street and a man yells out some words of encouragement and hands Nettleton a five-dollar bill. "It"s been a really long winter, especially being as sick as I was for as long as I was, and being out in the elements having to deal with it.
"It"s been really hard," he said.